The Worst of Kings and the Best of Kings – Works Together for Good

2 Chronicles 33-34

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Saturday, December 3

Yesterday’s reading ended with an ominous sentence, “His son Manasseh succeeded him.” Manasseh might very well be the worst king of Israel. He sacrificed his own son as a burnt offering to a pagan god. He killed the prophet Isaiah. Yet when God punished him, he repented and tried to defeat the evil that he had done. However, his son was also evil, but then his grandson Josiah was one of the best kings ever in Israel.

 

A brief point I’d like to make on this passage: good things can create an opportunity for bad, while good can come out of bad. That sounds odd,  doesn’t it? Yet Hezekiah’s extended life, a gift from God, allowed him to produce Manasseh as an heir. Yet from the degeneration of the kingly line that began with Manasseh and continued with his son, came the best king of Israel. The point is that we cannot make predictions based on circumstances, but God will work for good whenever people will be open to him, regardless of how bad the people around them have been.

 

I thought of this often during the current election. People predicted dire consequences if either candidate was elected. Everyone of them could happen, but these are all human circumstances. Regardless of whether your candidate is elected or not, the only good that we can count on is what happens when people place their trust in God and act faithfully. Everything else is just a matter of circumstance.

 

Let’s finish this week by looking at the good that can happen when people respond to God in obedience. As unusual as it might seem, it appears that by the time of Josiah, God’s people were living by tradition rather than actually reading the Holy Scriptures. While doing the right thing and restoring the Temple, the priest Hilkiah found the book of the Law. Josiah was immediately convicted when he read these words and responded by bringing his life and the kingdom of Judah in line with the law of God. Great things happened because of it.

 

I really appreciate the opportunity to write these devotions this week. It thrills me that you are taking the time to read the word of God. There are many things that are difficult to understand, but good things will happen when we are obedient to the things that we do understand. One thing that I’m certain of is that obedience to what we know is the accelerator of Christian growth. In other words, we are all at different levels of spiritual maturity, but we can all grow by living the life that God reveals to us.

-Greg Demmitt

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Winning the Battle, but Losing the War

2 Chronicles 23-25

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Wednesday, November 30

I am enjoying the trailers for Rogue One, the soon-to-be-released film that chronicles the rise of the rebel alliance, setting the stage for Star Wars movies four through six. The search for the rightful ruler lies behind many such stories.

 

We see the same throughout Judah’s history. In today’s reading alone, we read of four different regime changes. The first is the best, as God’s priests serve as warriors defending the rightful king and overthrowing the usurping daughter of Ahab.

 

Stuart (1987) writes that the Chronicler likes to show immediate retribution for sin amongst God’s people, and we see that several times in today’s passage. One really sad event begins with King Amaziah trusting God and winning a battle against great odds, but then returning home to set up the defeated kingdom’s idols for Israel to worship. God’s prophet rightly asks him, “Why have you resorted to a people’s gods who could not deliver their own people from your hand?” (2 Chron. 25:15). Before long, Judah was overthrown by Israel.

 

Does life work like that today? How quickly do we experience the consequences of bad behavior?Sometimes it happens very quickly, but not always. The Apostle Paul warns us, “The sins of some people are conspicuous and precede them to judgment, while the sins of others follow them there. So also good works are conspicuous; and even when they are not, they cannot remain hidden.” (1 Timothy 5:24-25).

 

We must remember, however, that our life as Christians is not simply a matter of good things happening when we are good and bad things happening when we are bad. We are called into a life better than anything we read about in the Old Covenant because now we have entered into a wonderful new relationship with God because of what Jesus has done for us. We must not be dominated by the cycle of good and bad behavior that occurs in almost everyone, and instead live in faith that God loves us and enables us to live out our lives through the power of his Holy Spirit that dwells within us.

-Greg Demmitt

Douglas Stuart, Hosea–Jonah, WBC 31; Accordance electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1987), 262.

The Valley of Jehoshaphat

2 Chronicles 20-22

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Tuesday, November 29

Our reading today goes from Jehoshaphat’s greatest victory to the terrible things that his children and their wives did after he died. Let’s look at his great victory and the possibility of it happening again.

 

Numerous countries are aligned against Judah and Jehoshaphat knows that he cannot defeat them. He calls upon God and is told that his prayers will be answered. Instead of fighting Judah watched as its enemies destroyed each other.

 

Might that happen again? One of our older ministers, Don Ward from Missouri, wrote about the current situation in the middle east, where ISIS is directing most of its evil towards Islamic states. He said this could be a fulfillment of Joel 3:

 

1 For then, in those days and at that time, when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, 2 I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the valley of Jehoshaphat, and I will enter into judgment with them there, on account of my people and my heritage Israel, because they have scattered them among the nations.

 

Pastor Don pointed out that there is no valley in Israel named after Jehoshaphat, and instead suggested that it refers to 2 Chronicles 20 and the way Israel’s enemies destroyed each other, which could be what is happening now. I think that is fascinating to think about.

-Greg Demmitt

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God First (I Chronicles 8-10)

Thursday, November 17

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We are coming to the end of the genealogy in 1 Chronicles.  It goes through chapter 9.  After 3 days full of genealogy, I was excited to have something to read and write about that wasn’t genealogy.  However, I was struck by the last chapter of this genealogy, and felt compelled to write one more devotion on it.

Chapter 9:1b-2 says, “The people of Judah were taken captive to Babylon because of their unfaithfulness.  Now the first to resettle on their own property in their own towns were some Israelites, priests, Levites and temple servants.”  The chapter continues by telling us that there were 1760 priests who returned, along with 212 gatekeepers guarding the Tent of meeting.  Four principle gatekeepers were responsible for the rooms and treasuries in the house of God.  Others who returned were responsible for the articles used in temple services.  Others were in charge of the temple furnishings.

The thing that struck me about this was that the first to return, the ones listed here, were dealing with the temple and the worship of God.  It wasn’t the masons to build a wall, or the warriors who would build the army to defend the city.  The Israelites were returning their hearts to God, and had their priorities straight:  worship God first and then deal with everything else.

How does this compare to us?  Do we prepare to worship God first?  I know it is very easy for me to get things backwards, get caught up in the busyness of life, and fit God in when there is time.  However, when I take time for God first, the busyness doesn’t seem so rushed and frantic, even when the circumstances stay the same.  Let’s focus on putting God first and worship him today.

-Andrew Hamilton

A Price to Pay (2 Kings 15-17)

Thursday, November 10

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2 Kings chapter 15 includes multiple assassinations of rulers, a one month rule, a 6 month rule and a twenty year reign of an evil king. . . makes our U.S. terms of office and system of voting look pretty good – far from perfect – but better than the political system of the Divided Kingdoms.

Of the 7 kings listed in Chapter 15, only two of them are said to have done what is right in the eyes of the Lord: Azariah and Jotham.  It is curious that those are the only two kings listed here in which the author gives the name of the king’s mother.   Young women – never underestimate the importance of the job of raising up a new Godly generation.  Yes, young men – your children will need a Godly daddy, too!!

There is a repeated phrase that we have heard over and over again describing the kings of Israel: “He did evil in the eyes of the Lord…he did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam.”  I think it is worth reminding ourselves what were the sins of Jeroboam?  When Israel divided after the reign of Solomon, Jeroboam became the ruler of the larger 10 tribes in the north, who would keep the name Israel.  However, they lost the two southern tribes which would be called Judah – as well as the holy city Jerusalem, the home of God’s special temple.  Jeroboam didn’t want his subjects trying to travel to Jerusalem to worship, as prescribed by God.  So he (not God) created new “holy places” for Israel which included golden calves and he selected new priests not from the tribe of Levi.  God’s whole system of worship (which had been carefully laid out in the books of Law) were replaced by Jeroboam – for convenience and ease.  But there would be a price to pay.

In Chapter 17 God sends the Assyrians to capture Israel.  They have used up their chances.  God is fed up with their disobedience.  Scripture says,”They followed worthless idols and themselves became worthless. They imitated the nations around them although the Lord had ordered them, ‘Do not do as they do’.” (17:15)  There is often great ungodliness – and danger – in blending in with those around us.  God’s people are to stand out as different – dedicated to His Word and commands rather than to what others are doing or what is currently convenient and accepted.  Who are you following?  Any guesses what the consequences (good or bad) are going to be?

Marcia Railton